Southwest Airlines Jet Emergency Landing Caused By Fatigue Failure

Federal NTSB investigators have announced preliminary findings from their initial inspection of the Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 today.  Investigators found evidence of fatigue cracking that existed before the event on Friday.  The Southwest Airlines jet experienced rapid decompression at 36,000 feet not long after take off, and managed an emergency landing in Yuma, Arizona.

A rip in the body of the Boeing 737 jet was reported to one foot wide.  Investigators plan to dismantle a 9 foot by 3 foot section from the area of the rip to send back to Washington, DC for further inspection.  The rip occurred where to skins join and are riveted together.  The jet was reported to be 15 years old, and had 39,000 take off and landings in it’s service life.  Not uncommon, but at the same time, a lot of stress on a planes fuselage.  Every landing and take off causes expansion and contraction in an aircraft, causing metal fatigue and cracking.  This particular jet last had repairs for cracks in March of 2010.  Another Southwest Airlines jet experienced a similar fatigue failure incident in April 2010.
[ad#Google Adsense]
One flight attendant was injured slightly after the Southwest Airlines pilots were forced to descend rapidly after the rapid decompression.  There was no update on the condition of the flight attendant today.

It’ll be months before NTSB investigators release any final results on the exact cause of the incident.  In the meantime, Southwest Airlines schedule has been adversely impacted as they grounded over 80 of their planes for inspections for fatigue cracks, causing 200 flights to be cancelled.

NTSB: Southwest jet in AZ landing had pre-existing fatigue damage along 5-foot …
Washington Post, on Sun, 03 Apr 2011 09:34:35 -0700

Federal investigators say the entire length of a 5-foot-long tear in the skin of a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 shows evidence of pre-existing fatigue cracking. / The Associated Press – ** RETRANSMISSION TO CORRECT FLIGHT NUMBER ** National 

Southwest grounds about 80 planes after mishap
Seattle Post Intelligencer, on Sun, 03 Apr 2011 09:34:01 -0700

TERRY TANG, AP, WALTER BERRY, Associated Press In this photo provided by passenger Brenda Reese, unidentified passengers take photos with cell phones of an apparent hole in the cabin on a Southwest Airlines aircraft Friday, April 1, 2011 in Yuma, Ariz.